Baez signed a two-year, $5.25 million contract with the Phillies on Tuesday, which adds him to a bullpen that includes Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin -- if everybody is healthy. Baez has closing experience, which could come in handy if Lidge and Romero are unable to start the season following offseason elbow surgeries.
Baez, 32, can handle the pressure. He defected from Cuba in 1999 following the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada. Asked Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park what he remembers about that day, Baez didn't miss a beat.
"Everything," he said. "You can't forget anything about that day. It was a great day. It was a huge decision, but everything worked."
He said after he defected the Cuban government suspended his parents' visas for five years, but they have since joined him in the United States. Baez lives in Miami, in the same neighborhood as Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez and third baseman Placido Polanco.
Baez said his brother Dennis remains in Cuba.
"Hopefully I can go back one day, but not now," he said.
Right now, Baez is in Philadelphia. He will make $2.5 million in 2010 and $2.75 million in '11. His signing means right-hander Chan Ho Park will not return. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also said Tuesday that negotiations have probably ended with left-hander Scott Eyre, who they offered a Minor League contract.
Baez went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 59 appearances last season with the Orioles. He had Tommy John surgery in October 2007, which forced him to miss the entire '08 season.
Baez said he felt healthy throughout last season, which is important considering the health uncertainties with Lidge and Romero.
"I can pitch anywhere, anytime," Baez said. "Just give me the ball."
Baez recorded four or more outs 18 times last season. Amaro said they feel Baez is durable enough to pitch back-to-back days and more than one inning on occasion. That would be valuable because that is the role Park held last season.
"He doesn't care when he pitches, just that he does [pitch]," Amaro said.
Amaro said they had interest in Baez early, and it picked up when they realized they would not be able to meet Park's price.
"It was an easy decision to come over here with a team that has been in the World Series two years in a row, and has a good chance to be back," Baez said. "There are a lot of teams looking for help in the bullpen, but when you have a team like the Phillies, it's an easy decision."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.